If you were to Google “social media and public relations strategy,” millions of articles, blog posts, videos and other resources would pop up on this popular subject. Journalists, new influencers and well-known authors continue to write on this topic. Why? Because there appears to be an ongoing disconnect between what is recognized as strategic planning when social media is included in a PR program (versus just moving forward with the social media tactics to reach your stakeholders). The latter is simply piecemeal efforts, not connected to a larger strategic initiative with the potential to deliver greater results.
The Underlying Social Media and PR Question
The underlying question that surfaces in many circles is: When starting out in social media, where should you really begin? Most PR professionals still see companies jumping into the social landscape and conversations head first with tweets, Facebook posts, Google+ updates and YouTube video uploads. However, the strategy behind these activities is weak.
Like anything else in PR, strategic planning is necessary to create a communication program with the required elements for success; it’s the planning process that allows you to reach your goals and objectives. Planning creates the road map for you to achieve a winning initiative.
Using social media to engage with the public is no different; it has to be integrated into an overall plan. And, contrary to the many social media programs out there, it’s not a stand-alone type of communication. Your audience can be found in many different places.
Stakeholders receive news and information in a number of ways, whether that's through traditional media, digital or social media. In order to move forward with your social and PR strategy, you have to take the time to understand what's behind the activity you see on a company’s social profiles. Picture an iceberg, with the bulk of it under the water.
The bulk of the iceberg, which lies beneath the surface, is the planning part. Unfortunately, it is often neglected.
Take Your Social Media and PR Strategy to the Next Level
In the spirit of good planning, here are some important questions to ask prior to moving forward with social media engagement. So, hold off on the tweets and your updates until you address the following:
- Do you have a plan for social media employee participation? Have you developed a social media policy, and is there training and governance to accompany the policy?
- What type of research have you conducted to uncover who is talking the most about your brand online, what are they saying, where are they talking and which influencers are driving these critical conversations?
- What does your company want to achieve through its social media and PR program? How do communication efforts tie back in to higher-level goals and objectives?
- What type of messages and channels are the most appropriate to reach and engage your stakeholders?
- Based on the culture of various social communities, what is the best type of content to share for deeper engagement opportunities with community members? What resources are in place to develop this content?
- How will you measure your engagement and report back to executives, as well as other business stakeholders?
- How do you prove social media and public relations value or impact in your program?
Social media and public relations strategy start in the virtual or physical classroom; not only for students entering the workforce and beginning their careers, but also for current professionals who realize that social media is now very much a part of their daily communication responsibilities.
Everyone Is a Student in Social Media Today
Because social media and new collaborative technologies are constantly changing the way we communicate, we’re all students learning together, whether you’re just beginning in PR or you’ve been practicing for many years.
However, regardless of the many changes I’ve seen, being in PR for 25 years has taught me that strategic planning is the key to creating value; it’s no different with social media communications.
When you focus on strategic planning, you’re able to enhance your engagement and create value for your organization, which can take the form of stronger relationships, increased awareness, a positive brand reputation and the ability to shift public opinion.
Deirdre Breakenridge is CEO of Pure Performance Communications and the author of “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional.” She teaches a PR Certificate Course for Rutgers University on social media and public relations strategy.